Vladimir Putin’s invasion force in Ukraine has been crippled by crumbling morale, with Russian troops reportedly damaging their own equipment and in some cases deliberately injuring their commanders or even themselves to avoid being sent into the fight.
According to sources within the Ukrainian military, Russian commanders have been cracking down hard on soldiers who are refusing to fight.
In a phone call from a Russian soldier, intercepted by Ukrainian special forces, it’s revealed that lieutenant general Rustam Muradov – the notorious deputy commander of Russia’s Southern Military District – has been sent in to make an example of deserters.
In the call, the soldier can be heard explaining that some of his unit had refused to advance.
Then, he said, “Muradov arrived and arranged a demonstrative tribunal.
“The commanders didn’t want to lead their boys to their deaths, so yesterday he busted the f**k out of the commanders to make an example.
“He undressed them, made them pull everything out of their pockets, tied their hands. Then they loaded them into [buses] and took them away”.
The recording hasn’t been independently verified, and there’s no confirmation of which Russian unit were involved or where the “busted” commanders had been sent.
In another intercepted phone call, a Russian soldier was overheard describing Russian leader Putin as an “old nutjob” and criticising the attack on Ukraine.
On Monday, a senior Pentagon official told Newsweek that there had been numerous reports of officers in Russia’s military refusing to follow orders in Ukraine.
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The official said that the reports, which have not been independently confirmed, were mainly related to officers refusing to lead their units into battle.
In March, the New York Times reported that in some cases entire Russian units had laid down their weapons rather than fight.
Michael Kimmage, a professor of history who was previously a member of the State Department policy planning staff, says: ”There are good reasons for low morale on the Russian side.
“The war isn’t going well. Its purpose is unclear, and fighting a war against a neighbour—with whom it’s easy to communicate—is psychologically burdensome to soldiers”.